Best new Scottish music for January 2017
Kick off the new year with Celtic Connections, New Year's Revolution and Neu! Reekie!
With New Year hangovers hopefully out of the way, normal service is starting to pick up again in January. Of course, this month's live action is overwhelmingly dominated by the Celtic Connections festival, which – as the title suggests – is packed full of Scottish artists, although List readers might prefer to investigate the more contemporary smaller acts playing in some of Glasgow's smaller venues.
We could go on and on listing every artist on the bill to ever claim a Caledonian postcode, but instead we'll pick a few of our own favourites, including the ever-dependable Pictish Trail; the one-off return of arch art-punks The Yummy Fur; virtuosic guitarist and songwriter RM Hubbert; and recommended multiple bills featuring Broken Records and Olympic Swimmers, and C Duncan, Man of Moon and Andrew Wasylyk.
There's loads to enthuse about at CC this year, frankly. From the same Edinburgh scene as Young Fathers, Law Holt is a soulful and politically-conscious young songwriter with edge, and Strawberry Switchblade's Rose McDowall and long-dormant but much-loved Edinburgh indie-folk group Aberfeldy are returns we're excited about. Also look out for Aidan Moffat's Where You're Meant to Be Ceilidh with special guests, a strong night of alternative folk featuring Lau's Aidan O'Rourke, Alasdair Roberts and Alex Neilson, and Karine Polwart's excellent spoken word and music piece Wind Resistance, a hit of last year's Edinburgh International Festival.
We're excited to hear in full Minor Victories' second (kind of) album Orchestral Variations (PIAS, released Fri 27 Jan), a reworking of last year's self-titled debut album from the Mogwai/Slowdive/Editors-based supergroup which strips back the record to instrumental essentials. Also out is Faces and Places, the debut album from Glasgow-based singer-songwriter Mark W Georgsson (★★★☆☆, Last Night in Glasgow, released Fri 27 Jan), a tenderly lovelorn collection of contemporary country tracks, sumptuously co-produced by Rod Jones of Idlewild, which is launched at the Hug and Pint. Former Brothers in Sound member and film and soundtrack composer Ed Dowie releases his album The Uncle Sold through Eigg's Lost Map (Fri 27 Jan) and we should have a review up here shortly.
One of Scotland's most hotly-tipped artists of 2017 is Dundee's Charlotte Brimner aka Be Charlotte, who's currently touring the winter festivals of Europe and about to release her new track 'One Drop' (★★★☆☆, AWAL/Kobalt, released Fri 20 Jan), a lithe, fuzzy blend of fierceness and femininity which offers a strong calling card for work to come later in the year. Also highly recommended is The E.Bias EP (★★★★☆, Kick and Clap, released Fri 27 Jan), six tracks of austere New Wave-influenced techno and electro by the Adriatic pop star Emmanual Maggi; in reality the Glasgow art-rock supergroup trio of Turner Prize alumni Richard Youngs and Luke Fowler with Franz Ferdinand/The Yummy Fur's Paul Thomson. The whole thing is lovely, from the stripped-back digital groove of the music to Youngs' crystalline New Romantic vocal and the sheer energy of the concept.
Shredd's Every Time We Meet I Wanna Die EP (★★★★☆, Fuzzkill Records, released Sat 21 Jan) is a very different-sounding triumph, a fuzz-toned trio of tracks which appear to arrive untampered with from the mid-90s, such is the grunge/Britrock fusion at work in their heavy riffs, wind tunnel Wall of Sound howls and winning enthusiasm. We're also big fans of Edinburgh duo Hi & Saberhagen, whose new EP is five tracks of gorgeous and delicate atmospheric house made for headphone listening, out on Huntleys + Palmers' new sublabel (★★★★☆, Belters, released Fri 20 Jan), while State Broadcasters' Break My Fall (★★★☆☆, Olive Grove, released Fri 20 Jan) is a softly balladeering introduction to the band's album A Different Past, due in March. For some reason – possibly just the vocal tone of new singer David McGinty – they sound to us a little like a Caledonian Housemartins, and you can see them play live at the Hug and Pint.
Finally, there are also local gigs happening which don't wear the Celtic Connections banner, most notably New Year's Revolution, filling the post-New Year lull with multiple band local line-ups. Sacred Paws release new music at Mono, and Neu! Reekie!'s Burns Blazer features an acoustic set from Idlewild's Roddy Woomble and Rod Jones, singer Brina presenting 'Jamaica Sings Robert Burns' and a version of Tam O'Shanter created by N!R!'s Kevin Williamson, Emelle's Craig Lithgow and more.